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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Conning a Con
by Diana Saenger

Most moviegoers love watching a good con unfold. In Confidence, an excellent ensemble cast takes this theme down a fun and unpredictable road.

Jake Vig (Edward Burns) is a grifter who plays his con so well he decides to step out of his safety net and go for the big score. When he and his pals Gordo (Paul Giamatti), Shills (Brian Van Holt) and two corrupt LAPD officers Whitworth (Donal Logue) and Manzano (Luis Guzman) go after the loot belonging to crime boss "The King" (Dustin Hoffman), things don’t go as planned.

After the loot disappears, Jake agrees to repay the debt – even though the sleazy little boss who loves touching him and watching porn is quite intimidating. "Dustin’s character was originally written for a 250 pound mafia boxing champion," explained Burns. "The original character had to be threatening, and he did that all by size. Dustin signs on board, and you still need to have the physical threat, so we rehearsed and Dustin led the charge to become an ominous and physical threat to me without being able to overcome me physically."

When Jake becomes intrigued with beautiful blonde pickpocket Lily (Rachel Weisz), he brings her into the new plot, ignoring the bad luck she keeps bringing to the plan. Lily uses her physical abilities to seduce a bank VP into investing in their phony scheme. Delivering an exceptional performance as Lily, the lovely Weisz morphs herself into the character of the day as needed for a con, but holds her own against Jake and his crew. The underlying sexual tension and battle for control between Lily and Jake add an extra exciting element to the film.

FBI Agent Gunther Butan (Andy Garcia) represents one of the hurdles Jake is not expecting. Garcia, who grew up in Tampa and used that locale to framework his character, loved working with the ensemble and admired director James Foley’s commitment to the story. "You can tell he’s an actor’s director and I was curious to have that experience with him. He has all the tools as a director to pull off something."

A pro at holding his emotions in check, Burns beings a necessary reverence to his character "Jake needed to be likeable," said producer Marc Butan. "There’s something about Eddie’s demeanor. He can get people to do what he wants them to do without even knowing that they’re doing it."

With his incredibly entertaining take on the character he portrays, Dustin Hoffman emerges as the icing on this con cake. Putting a lot of thought into his role is nothing new for Hoffman. "For Rain Man I researched for two and a half years, and I found out everything I could about autism," said Hoffman. "Tootsie was three and a half years because we couldn't get the script right. I like research. I never went to school. So this is an opportunity to educate myself."

To understand Confidence it helps to know the difference between a con movie (The Grifters) and a heist film (Oceans Eleven). "In a heist movie," explained Burns, "your guys explain how they’re going to do it and you watch them execute the heist in the film. A con movie is different because they tell you what they’re going to do, but it never goes down that way because there’s so much double-crossing and lies along the way. In Confidence you’re outwitting everyone involved, even members of the con team, and at some point you’re lying to them to get them to do what you want – but you can’t lie so far that you lose their trust."

(Released by Lions Gate Films and rated "R" for language, violence and sexuality/nudity.)

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